by Dr. David Sanders
These last few weeks I enjoyed the heartfelt, personal responses of students to a prompt on contemplating their own death. Specifically, they were asked to “choreograph the day of their death from morning till nightfall.” The settings they chose varied from loud parties to quiet rooms and on a beach or in a deep forest. Most wanted to be surrounded by family and friends. One unanticipated theme was the presence of food. Some described the food as part of a celebration with others, a festive meal. Others focused more on the particular food they wanted to enjoy, a last taste of a favorite food or drink or not so surprisingly a food they had denied themselves but before dying wanted a final indulgence.
I myself had not thought about eating on my last day so it was a curiosity to me why so many incorporated food. Then, an unanticipated question popped up: “Why is it that they offer people on death row a last meal before they are executed?” As I reflected on that question I came across a comment that added to the puzzle: What is the point in providing a last meal of their choosing if the person is going to die anyway?
Jokes abound about the size of meals that inmates have ordered or dishes that would require ingredients not readily available–ploys to perhaps put off the immediacy of their execution. The actual meals that have been ordered by convicts are catalogued—see Last Meal on Wikipedia.
The origin of this custom to provide a customized last meal is not clear but eating food is apparently important for many on the day of their death. Would food be a priority for you? If so, please share your menu and if you have a thought why a last meal is offered to convicts awaiting execution please share that as well.
P.S. We come into this world naked and leave naked and we are fed a first meal and leave with a last supper.